It may be late to the party, but the video below piqued my interest. It's about "Manic Pixie Dream Girls" (MPDGs), a female character in a movie who, according to critics, "exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures."
Furthermore, according to one recent critic, this character "remains a two-dimensional projection of the desires of a guy who is progressive enough in gender matters to want a woman who is 'interesting,' but not one that has an internal life of her own beyond the superficial qualities that made her 'cool' and 'not like other girls' to begin with."
The ur-MPDG is Kirsten Dunst in the movie "Elizabethtown," but according to the video, there are a whole bunch more, including Katherine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Meg Ryan, and Zooey Deschanel.
Now, I liked this video because it has a number of really lovely actresses and clips in it. But I don't agree with critics who say that MPDGs "exist solely" in someone's fevered imagination, or that in movies they remain "two-dimensional" projections. Perhaps in some movies this is true, but MPDGs-- as far as they exist in movies the way critics say they do-- come from real life.
MPDGs are based, in my opinion, on a certain substratum of the ENFP woman.
I've writting about the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator and ENFPs in the past, and I apologize in advance for those ENFPs in my readership who don't fit the stereotype rough sketch I'm going to produce. With it, I simply want to suggest that MPDG's (or at least some of the characters pegged as such in the video above) are not necessarily just products of a fevered writer's imagination.
ENFP women are among my favorite on the planet. They are among the planet's favorites, too. That's because they seem to be effortlessly perfect. They are always cheerful, charming, witty, kind, helpful, winning. They are friendly to everyone, they make friends with everyone, they seem carefree.
This type of woman can seem like a godsend to introverted, brooding writers. ENFPs are genuinely accessible and unthreatening. They like people and see a person's gifts and praise them. A number of ENFP women enjoy bringing introverts out of their shells. It's like spreading sunshine.
That portrait is the two-dimensional part, and that's why I used the word "seem" in it. That's because, underneath all the positives, the ENFP has as many or more problems, neuroses, issues, fears, history, and weirdnesses as or than any other human being on the earth. Some have more, because when one is that friendly, good, and interested in others, predators, stalkers, and other malefactors pop up in one's life and cause havoc.
Such a woman also attracts rescuers. It's an irresistible combination: guys want to rescue women who are both genuinely good and friendly and who find their natural outgoing natures taken advantage of.
I think screenwriters have captured this type of three-dimensional woman on screen. Consider Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's." She appears in the MPDG video, but I don't consider her character, Holly Golightly, two-dimensional in any way. The brooding writer character played by George Peppard idolizes Hepburn at first for her ability to bring him out of his shell. Soon he begins to glimpse and then discern her issues and complexities. He then tries to rescue her multiple times, and never really suceeds. Two minutes before the end of the film, he's still trying and still not succeeding. The end of that movie gives us a feel-good moment, but nothing is really resolved.
"Breakfast at Tiffany's" is a brilliant example of a movie that resists simplification of a difficult ENFP woman character.
Myers-Briggs might also explain why American cinema gives us characters who can be classified, rightly or wrongly, as MPDGs. ENFPS often feel called to acting and drama. Male screenwriters, who are often introverted, brooding types, do often meet actresses. Hollywood must be filled with aspiring introverted screenwriters who meet aspiring ENFP actresses. The few screenwriters who make it to actually writing movies that get produced have the memories of knowing those actresses. The memories might actually be quite strong and emotionally intense. That type of experience is going to osmose into movies.
Is there such a thing as a pure MPDG? I haven't seen "Elizabethtown." My first novel, which I wrote as a young teen, features an ENFP teen. She is a genuinely friendly and charming princess who briefly causes the hero to stray from his natural love, the shy tomboy who has shared all his adventures with him. Is my princess an MPDG? Possibly. But then, I was only 16 when I wrote her.
Do you know of any MPDGs that you detest? Like? How often are quirky young women two-dimensional in movies? Comment, comment away.